Part 13: Snugglebot to strugglebot in 0.5 seconds (and other thoughts from a Mum)

Four wily owls; Archimedes, Owly, Sam, Mr. Owl. The top Owl, Sam, has eyeballs that see in curtain-snitch style, feathers out of joint, mistrusting, he watches. His cronies are shapes, worn silhouettes that used to be, now an imprint on a life no longer there. We sit together in blinds-down blackness, a thin line of summer evening traces the fabric edge in a sneaky way, poking through the membrane of a distant memory, the sounds of Saturday night, glasses tinkle to laughter across a garage backing track, teenagers scream at each other from the park and…

I feed Frank, staring at this bloody Woodley family crest mounted on the plaster in the hall where the light reflects. Four Owls stare back. We do the rain ballet dressed as primates standing upside down, whilst silently pleading that this over the top ritual will bring heavy eyes and Z’s, then leap down the stairs, over the creaky steps like Mario dodging fire at the final hurdle into the sitting room and…

Eyes snap open like popcorn. PING. Wide-eyed, watching like the owls. Why? Whyyyyyyy? Back upstairs we go. I think I remember going to parties… I think I remember when seven o’clock wasn’t bath time, but then again I’m not really sure. Seems like it might have been someone else or a different life. This is not forever, temporary and in lots of ways too short. He’s just TOO CUTE. (How it is possible that he’s getting even cuter?) I go downstairs, on repeat, Clifford hands me a large glass of wine. We watch Frank TV on the screen, I zoom in on his face to watch him sleep. I am OBSESSED.

Living in the moment is key, the basis for all human happiness. I slowly start to achieve smaller goals, like washing my hair and reading a book, but it’s not enough. When I think about this it frustrates me but also when will I hang out with Frank like this again? Everything is finite. Anyone who does not make their money from what they believe they should be doing feels the tug, the WRENCH, the artists battle ground between living your creative life and just surviving. I always think about The Alchemist, “The Secret of Happiness lies in looking at all the wonders of the world and never forgetting the two drops of oil in the spoon.” So, what’s the trick?  To be present AND to work towards that thing that gives you fire. What I want to be achieving is important, but so is BEING HERE.

I know time will come again, like an old friend returning. Time for writing, time for parties, time for ME. When Frank was tiny he was never out of my arms. Now he’s bigger, he’ll play with toys next to me and I count the TICK-TICK-TICK of his mind, wide eyes exploring and the most incredible laugh that shakes his whole body. Hearing your baby laugh is like crack. When they laugh at something unconnected to touch, just chuckling quietly to themselves over something they have seen, this is IT. It’s a privilege to watch his brain. I buy balloons and feathers and glow sticks and bubbles and whistles and lights. We play with a blue plastic bowl. We put things in it, we take things out, we put it on my head, put it on Franks head, Frank gives it a taste, we bash it like a drum. Mostly he’s into BASHING THINGS. He gets involved in whatever I am doing. Always taking my phone, fixated with the screen already, he puts it in his mouth. I sit him next to me now and he sits up by himself, tall and then SOuagsdjkabksdjblb cs=scdcxccccccccccccccccccccccc

The brain of the primary caregiver morphs, awakening the primal worry that keeps children alive, keeps civilisation thriving. Somewhere in there the circuits are hot-wired, altering how we are meant to feel in the ludicrously unfair situation of looking after such a demanding being. It’s not normal but the brain melts, the heart melts, it widens. You adapt with some shocking speed. Waking up in the middle of the night is no longer the worry it was. (I mean, it is in a way, and I think it will get harder for us) but what I mean is, at this point, it’s OKAY. When the shmuck with a baby leaves the pub early you always feel bad for them, right? Sucks to be you, mate. But on the flip, it doesn’t feel that bad. But maybe that’s only because the pub is forced to shut at 10pm these days. There’s no dances to go to so we rave to a jungle set with Frank in the bouncer at four in the afternoon, get high on the giggles, smashed on that smile.

Millions of years of evolution with women as the caring, nurturing beings making sure their offspring thrive, has led to the fact that females are just better at looking after babies. Not all of them, but most are better than men. Being the feminists that we are, this is hard to swallow. I thought it would be more even, but that’s not anyone’s fault. Men can sleep through a baby crying in a way that often a mother cannot. Wanting to pummel your partner spark-o while the baby wails and they snore is, apparently, very common. That doesn’t make it any less FUCKING ANNOYING though. A babies cabling is also interlaced into the mums; feeding, comfort and evolution, all super-strengthening this bond like something slathered with superglue, covered in cement and then frozen in the deep freeze. I understand the importance of leaving him, the ties he needs to cultivate with others in our family, but when I go away we both feel it. Deep inside our beings.

A lot of people said to us, “you will feel completely different once the baby is born”, that the change will be almost instant and innate. But neither of us feel that different. It’s a gigantic shift and adjustment, but there are also a lot of things that remain the same and I feel so relieved about that. We’re still the same people and we’re still in the same life, in a lot of ways. It’s both strange and deeply comforting. Let the baby fit your life, instead of making your life fit the baby… This advice is so fucking great. We are only fledglings, but I aspire to THIS. With a baby it is hard– a lot of being a new mum is spent rotating activities around nap times, watching like the owls for tiredness cues, thinking three steps ahead with a deep-seated fear for the “over-tiredness”. Because when that strikes everybody suffers, everybody cries. But I aim and hope to take Frank out into my world, to let him see what we are about and who we are. In doing this he will gradually find himself.

And he’s on that voyage already. Just talk to him and ask him. Talk to Frank, he’s such a character. He’s got something going on, a sense of being. I share my home, my world, with Clifford and Frank. I don’t think of him as a baby. He seems, to me, to be much more than that. He’s a small person already. I think of Frank sucking a dummy and it doesn’t seem to fit his face. He’s there and you know he’s there and it’s all cool. Of course, I would say shit like this, but I really feel like there’s something about him. It’s in the way he has so much to say, in the way he contemplates everything with such time and thought, in the way he’s counted, in the manner in which he brings that ‘something’, he brings himself. He has a presence.